Month: October 2023

Stephen Woodard’s enslaved people, no. 4.

When Stephen Woodard Sr. executed his last will and testament in 1858, he determined the fates of 72 enslaved African-Americans.

In Item 15th, daughter Penelope Woodard received 20 enslaved people. Woodard died in 1864, and all were likely freed before his estate was distributed. Though they presumably were in Wilson County at Emancipation, I’m able to trace forward relatively few people.


  • Asa
  • James
  • Ben

Benjamin Woodard has been a popular subject of my blogposts.

  • George
  • William
  • Jacob

Perhaps: on 3 August 1867, Jacob Woodard, son of Gabriel Woodard and Rena Deans, married Anna Tyson, daughter of Jack Tyson and Diana Tyson, at A.G. Brooks’ in Wilson County.

  • Gray

Grey Woodard, son of Cooper and Chacy Woodard, married Jane Edmondson, daughter of Easter Edmondson, on 6 February 1869 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Gray Woodard, 19; wife Jane, 19; Cherry Edmondson, 21, farm laborer, and child Willis, 4; Jno. Woodard, 6 months; and Epps Edmondson, 6.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Grey Woodard, 27; wife Jane, 25; and children Daniel, 10, Grant, 5, Handy, 4, Frank, 3, Jonah, 2, and Martha, 1. [Gray Woodard and family were close neighbors to Austin Woodard and Cooper Woodard, who were Gray’s brother and father.]

  • Sam
  • Old Bob
  • Sarah and her children Delilah, Edwin, and Ellen

This does not appear to be Sarah Woodard who married first Warren Rountree, then her sister Harriet’s widower, Alfred Woodard.

  • Rebecca and her children Isidore, Isaac, and Mary
  • Rose
  • Cherry

Perhaps: in 1866, Jack Woodard and Cherry Woodard registered their three-year marriage with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jack Woodard, 25; wife Cherry, 24; and daughter Martha, 2.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jack Woodard, 36; wife Cherry, 36; and children Martha, 13, Mattie, 8, James, 6, Mary, 4, Fannie, 3, and Nicey, 5 months.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: widower Jack Woodard, 59; sons Jimmy, 26, and Baylum, 14; and grandchildren Moses Atkinson, 6, and Afonsa Atkinson, 5.

  • Barbery

The mayor honors elders.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 May 1980.

  • Naomi S. Hunter

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 602 Viola Street, Samuel Sweny, 53, painter, and children Neoma, 17, Laney, 15, Easter, 13, Gracy, 12, John H., 10, and George P., 7.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Swinney Saml (c) pntr h 602 Viola; also, Swinney Naomi (c) student h 602 Viola

On 13 August 1935, Talmon Hunter, 24, of Wilson County, son of Will and Callie Hunter, married Noami Swinney, 22, of Wilson County, daughter of Samuel and Georgia Swinney, in Nashville, Nash County, North Carolina.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 606 East Green, Talmon Hunter, 29, Hamilton Funeral undertaker, and wife Naomi, 27, private nurse.

George Cleo Swinney  registered for the World War II draft in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 15 April 1923 in Wilson County; lived at 602 East Viola; his contact was Naomi Hunter, 11 1/2 North Pender Street; and he worked for Thurston Motor Line, Wilson.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 311 1/2 Pender, Talmon Hunter, 39, assistant funeral home director; wife Naomi, 37, house cleaner; and son Joseph, 17.

Naomi Swinney Hunter died 31 December 1986 in Chapel Hill, Orange County, North Carolina.

  • Fannie Harris

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: James Harris, 53; wife Fanny, 43; children James, 20, Robert, 17, Annie L., 13, Bennie, 8, Albert, 6, Jimmie J., 3, and Dolpha M., 1; and orphan Eddie B. Taylor, 6.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: James Harris, 63; wife Fanny, 55; and children Benjamin, 17, Albert, 16, Dorothy, 13, Jimmie, 12, and Eddie B., 16.

In the 1950 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: widow Fanny Harris, 55; children Jimmie, 23, and Dorthy, 22; sister Louise Haster, 64, widow; nieces Evon, 4, and Lenda Fay Harris, 1; and grandchildren James R., 9, and Jearldine Harris, 10.

Willie Swinson would rather be working.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 October 1984.


In the 1920 census of Bullhead township, Greene County, N.C.: farmer Wesley Swinson, 40; wife Adie, 36; and children Henry, 16, Wesley Jr., 15, Willie, 13, Harrish, 11, Addie, 7, Sarah, 5, and Iola, 3 months.

On 22 July 1933, Willie Swinson, 27, of Wilson, son of Wesley Swinson and Addie [no maiden name given], married Isadelle Turner, 20, of Wilson, son of Jasper and Madie Turner, on East Green Street, Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister I. Albert Moore performed the ceremony in the presence of David Henderson, Maggie Mae Best, and Mable Boney.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 921 Atlantic, rented for $13/month, Wesley Swinson, 59; wife Addie, 53; and children John H., 35, Willie, 30, Iola, 20, Odessa, 18, and Doris, 15.

In 1940, Willie Lee Swinson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 1 August 1907 in Greene County, N.C.; lived at 921 Atlantic Street; his contact was wife Isadell Swinson; and he worked for Boyd Clark at Carolina Warehouse.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 921 Atlantic, Wesley Swinson, 61, plumber helper; wife Addie, 67; and son Willie, 41, chaffeur for local tobacco buyer.

Willie Swinson died 24 January 1986 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 August 1907 in North Carolina to Wesley Swinson and Addie Sutton; was married to Isidell Sutton; and worked as a floorpan for Clark Warehouse.

Dr. Swearinger addresses Trinity A.M.E. Zion.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 October 1943.


  • Trinity Methodist Church — Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church
  • Cora Jordan Fitch
  • Grace Patterson — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County:  Walter Patterson, 35, W.P.A. project laborer; wife Grace, 33, housekeeper; and children Walter Jr., 11, and Julia, 10.

Studio shots, no. 109: Phenie Powell Howard.

Phenie Powell Fleming Kornegay Howard (1873-1970).


In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County, N.C.: farmer Ichabud Powell, 32; wife Mary A., 32; and children Beedy A., 9, Pheny, 7, John, 5, James W., 4, Henry G., 3, and Mary A.E., 11 months.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township: on Finchs Road, farm laborer William Fleming, 35; wife Phanie, 24, farm laborer; daughter Geneva Howard, 4; and orphan Annie Holy, 13, farm laborer. 

On 29 November 1921, Allison Howard, son of Deal and Rhoda Howard, married Phenie Kornegay, 40, daughter of Jacob [sic] and Mary Powell, in Wilson. William Powell and Mattie Lucas witnessed the ceremony.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Howard Allison (c; Feenie) lab h 401 N Reid

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Howard Allison (c; Thenie) farm hd h 400 (401) N Reid

Moses Allerson Howard died 6 October 1937 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 70 years old; was born in Wilson County to Deal Howard and Rhoda Eatmon; was married to Phenina Howard; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Wilson [likely, Vick Cemetery.]

Phenie Powell Howard died 13 January 1970 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 20 April 1890 to an unnamed father and Mary Lassiter; was a widow; and lived at 400 North Reid Street. Mahalie Harmon, Washington, D.C., was informant.

Photo courtesy of Levolyre Farmer Pitt.

The obituary of Lydia Meeks Grissom Coley.

This clipping of an obituary for Lydia Meeks Grissom Coley is found in a scrapbook kept by Savannah Powell Farmer (1908-1996). I have not been able to source the newspaper or its date of publication, but it does not appear to have come from the Wilson Daily Times.

Many thanks to Levolyre Farmer Pitt for sharing her mother’s scrapbook!

Lane Street Project: a visit to Rocky Mount’s Unity Cemetery.

My first look at Rocky Mount’s Unity Cemetery was jaw-dropping. This Edgecombe County burial ground, founded in 1901, is more than twice the size of Vick Cemetery (and about half the size of Rest Haven.) Large swathes of its territory have been cleared of undergrowth; the remaining pines and a few hardwoods stretch as far as can be seen. Most of the trees have diameters no wider than a dinner plate, and I’d guess are no more than 30 to 40 years old. 

Most of the graves are currently unmarked, but perhaps several hundred gravestones stand in place. Elias Cooper’s, above, is one of the oldest; he died in 1907. The headstones are generally marble or granite; I saw very few of rough concrete “homemade” variety. As seen below, Rocky Mount families knew of Wilson’s Clarence B. Best, and I saw a few examples of his work.

I also noticed this fieldstone marker.

I entered Section A of the cemetery from the dead end of East Highland Avenue. The ground there and in Section B was fairly level, but as I pushed into Sections D and E, I was startled to find deep corrugations across the woodland floor — hundreds of graves that have subsided a foot or more. 

The dips in the shadows of tree trunks in the photos below reveal sunken graves.

I imagine Vick, Odd Fellows and Rountree Cemeteries might have looked something like this at stages of their existence, and I’m saddened by what we’ve lost.

Not all of Unity’s ground surface is clear, and in Section B I noticed wisteria, the scourge of Odd Fellows. You can see it curling to the left of this elaborate headstone, which was erected by a church congregation in honor of their pastor, Rev. John Henry Martin.)

Abel Powell, born enslaved, lived nearly a century in Rocky Mount.

The remains of a ornamental iron fence that once surrounded a family plot lean against a tree in Unity.

A prayer in memory of Unity Cemetery’s dead and for the wisdom and perseverance of those who work to protect them.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2023.

Kiddie story hour at the library.

In October 1945, the Negro Library on Pender Street observed its first “kiddies story hour” for members of its book club. Librarian Pauline Coley read two books to the children, including Munro Leaf’s now-classic The Story of Ferdinand. Nine year-old Hattie Margaret Henderson was elected group leader, and Rosalind Taylor as her assistant. The reading club included Patricia Garner, Gail Peacock, Betty Handy, Doris Crooms, Helen Pepper, David Pepper, Delores Wilson, Wendell Hines, Joane Jenkins, John Barnes, Randolph Speight, Willie Wynn, Vilma Dew, David Charles Smith, and William H. Thomas Jr.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 October 1945.

The obituary of Charles B. Lassiter, A. & T. grad and Army veteran.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 March 1946.


Charles Bryant Lassiter registered for the World War II draft in Richmond, Virginia, in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 8 November 1917 in Smithfield, North Carolina; resided at 303 East Clay Street, Richmond; his contact was mother Mamie Lassiter, 710 Viola Street, Wilson; and he worked at the Hotel John Marshall in Richmond.

Charles B. Lassiter died 8 March 1946 at the Veterans Administration hospital in Kecoughtan, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 November 1917 to John M. Lassiter and Mamie Sanders; lived at 710 East Viola Street, Wilson; was single; was a World War II veteran; and worked as an insurance agent.